At some point in the last few weeks or before this month is over, the thought might have crossed your mind….
The dreaded, over clichéd New Year’s resolution to firm up those arms, shave down the muffin top, or to tighten up that booty (for you ladies, but these days some dudes too). Maybe you just want to be comfortable enough with yourself to go shirtless or to wear the two-piece. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to push your aesthetic to the next level either – provided that it’s not going to make you a self-absorbed social media whore!
As I stated in the last post, (if you missed it, you can read here: https://jptotalfitness.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/how-do-i-stay-committed-during-the-holidays/ ), first push through the holidays with a bit of determination. Then you can keep moving forward through the remainder of winter and spring toward the goal of looking good for the beach. First and foremost you must plan NOW for June. It will take time, effort and mental programming to transform your body. Don’t wait until April to go on some weirdo diet and extreme workout plan. This is especially true if you are more than 15 pounds overweight. You will need more than 8 weeks to get your body in the shape you would like. You will also need more time than that to create new habits to keep it off so you don’t have to climb the same uphill battle next year.
THE THREE D’s
There are three D’s when it comes to making it happen.
The first one is DESIRE. It all begins with a desire to want to change. It has to be a burning desire, not just a daydream or a wish. This reminds of the story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.” In response Socrates led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into the water. The he asked the young man, “Now tell me, what is it that you want?”
“Knowledge, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile.
Socrates put his hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under the water. Thirty seconds later the wise philosopher lifted his pupil out of the water. “What is it again that you want?” he asked. “Wisdom, O great and wise Socrates” the young man said under labored breathing.
Socrates again took the man and held him under water, this time longer. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five, forty, forty-five. Finally, Socrates let him up. The man gasped for air as Socrates asked him, “What do you want, young man?”
He labored to answer. “Knowledge, O wise and wonderful . . .” To this response Socrates then plunged the man under water, this time holding him for close to a minute. As the young man came up panting for oxygen, Socrates asked him, “What do you want?”
“Air!” the young man screamed. “I need air!”
“When you desire wisdom as you have just desired air, then you will have it”.
In this case you will be desiring a leaner, healthier, fitter body. Until you are sick and tired of being sick and tired you will not make it a priority in your life enough to adjust your daily eating habits and exercise 4-6 days a week.
The second “D” is to make a DECISION. You need to decide that for the next six months you are going to take the action steps necessary to change your body without life, job, family & friends getting in the way. Decide to make a plan of action; decide that you will make it all the way through; decide that you will not get distracted or derailed, decide that you will do whatever it takes to make your goal.
Once you have visualized it, and outlined what to do, you need to forge through with DEDICATION (third “D” obviously). With every fiber in your being, stick to the plan. If it’s not your flexible eating day, then don’t let your emotions or boredom sabotage you into comfort eating. On those rough days at work when you don’t want to step foot into the gym – you go anyway! You can’t just do your best, because honestly some days and weeks your best won’t be good enough. YOU DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO STICK TO THE PLAN. Go back and read the previous two sentences a few times.
KEEPING IT REAL
So you say you would like to shed 75 pounds and sport washboard abs in time for the warmer weather? Insane fad diets and misleading infomercials may have led you to believe it’s possible – which is not to say that it isn’t. However, reaching that kind of goal in given time span depends on a few factors that will determine whether you reach it or not.
Make sure your goal is grounded in reality. There has to be a happy compromise between achieving the best transformation possible and keeping your mission personally attainable. With moderate daily nutrition and consistent exercise you can safely lose 1-2 pounds per week. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that is 4-8 solid pounds of body fat you can lose per month. Not water, and not muscle, but an average of 6 gelatinous, unhealthy, space consuming, clothes filling pounds of body fat. Now, multiply that by 5-6 months and think about that transformation!
Also, avoid comparing yourself to, or aspiring to look like any of the top fitness and physique models you see on the internet and social media. Their entire existence is their appearance. They make a living through endorsements and sponsorships and exist 24/7 to maintain and improve their bodies. Many of them have coaches and nutritionists guiding them along, aside from having the time for workouts (if not multiple workouts) every day. You however most likely have a 40-60 hour a week job, maybe are married or have a significant other, probably have kids, and hopefully some semblance of a social life.
If the roles were reversed they just might look like you, and you might be as ripped as they are. Pursue to be the best version of YOU that you can be. You were made you for a reason, and other people need to see your personal best.
One more thing before I dive into the next point, for you ladies…..
PUT ON LEAN MUSCLE!!!!
Lifting some heavier weight will not make you bulky or “manly.” Here’s a little Bio-Weight Training 101: there’s a little hormone called testosterone that is responsible for stimulating muscle growth. Men have it in large amounts, which what makes us men in the first place (my wife would say what makes me stupid half the time too). You ladies have it in much, much more small doses. A tiny percentage of you may have a genetic disposition to get just a little more muscular than other women, but unless you are taking “special supplementation” you will not look like a professional gal in the Cross Fit games (or Jillian Michaels, when she’s in a bulkier phase). There are only really 3 types of tissue aside from your organs – bone, fat and muscle – so which do you think you will be shaping up? Putting on some healthy lean muscle will actually give your body a firmer shape, you will be stronger, burn more calories at rest, and it will support your bones better – which is a benefit since ladies are more prone to osteoporosis in your later years. So put aside those pretty pink 2.5 pound dumbbells and challenge yourself. Trust me!
HOW, HOW, HOW?
Now to the part you’ve been waiting for……the how.
First of all, exercise 4 to 6 days a week. No less than four. Other than that, you are not moving your body frequent enough to stimulate any change. No more than six. Your joints and central nervous system need a break, and your muscles need to recover. Even God took a break after creating the world in six days. Muscles are stimulated in the gym, but grow when you rest, eat right and sleep for at least 8 hours a night.
Now, think of the many ways you can make change for a dollar. The two most extreme examples would be 100 pennies or four quarters. Which would you rather be storing in your pocket? If you say the pennies then you’re wrong……..go back the beginning of the post and read it over for not cooperating. The quarters are a little bigger, worth more, and take up less space and time to count. It’s the same when comparing isolation exercises to compound exercises. Isolation moves only move one joint at a time, therefore only work usually one muscle group (i.e. bicep curls, hamstring curls, shoulder raises). There’s nothing wrong with those and I’m not suggesting that you totally eliminate them, but the goal here is efficient fat blasting exercise where you get more bang for your buck. Yes, the pun was very deliberate.
Compound exercises involve movement from multiple joints and as a result you will target two or more muscle groups simultaneously. And, there are no exercises more foundation than the Big Five: Squats, Military press, Bench press, Deadlifts and Pull-ups. If there is one thing I emphasize with my clients it is some variation of the five big moves, within their strength and abilities. Honestly, you will not get the strength, muscle building or fat burning results you are looking for without these foundational moves. Period!
To take it a step further, especially for the fat burning goals you NEED to prioritize leg workouts. Your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes account for a large portion of the muscle mass in your body. Therefore when you target them you will burn more calories than when working your chest, lats, shoulders, bi’s and tri’s. In addition, when you perform leg exercises with free weights (not machines – hint, hint) you also use more of the little stabilizer muscles in your core and hips, thus making you stronger and burning even more calories. This is key especially for trying to flatten out the belly. You can’t just get abs by working abs. That is the myth known as “spot reduction.” You will need to make every effort to work your lower half at least once, if not twice a week (one moderate/heavy day, one light day). There are many elite athletes with six pack abs that don’t do a lot of ab isolation work because they do all their core squeezing with the compound exercises besides the fact that their workouts are intense.
And no, cardio does not count as working your legs.
Read it again:
CARDIO DOES NOT COUNT AS WORKING YOUR LEGS.
Here’s why……cardio, though it may elevate your heart rate and burn some calories makes you use primarily what is known as your slow twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for long term, short range of motion movements like walking, jogging, biking, elliptical gliding or climbing. Then there’s fast twitch fiber which makes you do quick explosive full range movement like sprinting or heavier lifting. It’s the fast twitch fiber that makes your muscles get bigger and shape up nicely.
So grow a pair, or put on your big girl undies, which ever applies, and work them legs.
As mentioned earlier, the common mistake of many novice gym goers is focusing on the triceps, biceps and abs instead of the chest, lats and shoulders. It’s understandable that anyone would want to build or just tighten up their arms. In our culture, muscular arms have become a symbol of strength and manliness, or badass-ness to be gender neutral. Tris and bis are smaller muscle groups though – as compared to the rest of the body, and working them will not make you expend enough calories for shedding the body fat stored everywhere else on your body. Plus, working those muscles with isolation moves are only part of the equation to get them where you want them to be. It’s even worse if the only muscle groups you’re hitting are arms, some abs with a little cardio……it’s just not going to happen, my friend!
The solution: make it priority to work the big muscle groups of your torso. By working your chest, you use your anterior/front delts and triceps as secondary muscles. With the lats your secondaries are the rhomboids (mid back muscle more inward toward the spine from the lats), biceps and posterior/rear delts). When I say shoulders, I mean the whole complex of muscles from your neck, to the joint of your humerus, to the shoulder blades. That includes not just the delts, but also your upper and mid traps, and the rotator cuff muscles – which are CRUCIAL for shoulder stability and any heavy upper body pressing. When doing any shoulder pressing exercise, triceps are also secondary muscles. These require compound movements, as stated earlier, so as a benefit they require you to push/pull heavier weight with your smaller arm muscles, which will make them stronger and tighter.
Overall, your rep ranges should be between 8 and 20 for your large muscle groups. The weight used for every exercise should provide enough resistance for 1-2 more reps than what you are going for per set. So leave some in the tank with every forth going set so that you get an even amount of reps per set, and not burn out with a lesser rep range on the last set of given exercise.
It would be a good idea to be 75 to 80 percent complete towards your goal by the first week of April. By this point you should be feeling pretty good about the work you put in and your progress. That way you’ll have only 8 weeks until June if you need to step it up with a little higher level of intensity or a cleaner diet.
Everyone has a different goal, unique personality, varying work ethic and physical abilities, as well as their own personal life and time issues – so it would be unfair for me to give a cookie cutter solution to this endeavor. If you are at the point where you really need to get this done for yourself, then maybe it’s time to consider hiring a personal trainer. If this is you, and it’s within your financial means to do so I implore you to take that step. If you don’t know where to turn, then feel free to contact me for a free face to face consult (if you are within reasonable radius of my facility) or for remote training if you are at a distance. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . The investment in yourself towards the knowledge, support and accountability of a good professional may be the difference in a true life transformation and spinning your wheels for yet another year.